Opening later this month, the new museum on Bunker Hill—which millennial Angelenos can’t wait to let their visiting parents take them to—occupies the hallowed ground populated by the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the MOCA, and Colburn. The lavish 120,000 square foot museums’ opening was five years from blueprint to red ribbon. Housing Eli and Edythe Broad’s highly impressive collection of postwar art including the requisite spotlight on Los Angeles artists such as John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Ed Ruscha, and Barbara Kruger, the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed structure’s real originator is Director Joanne Heyler.
Deemed coolly competent by fellow art execs and “the best choice” by Mr. Broad himself, Heyler has handled the Broad’s collection—some two thousand contemporary works—for twenty years yet. A Los Angeles native with a master’s degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, Heyler has intersection on CALIFUK-ing point.
Flaunt asked Heyler to examine the collection and narrow in on a few pieces that exemplify CALIFUK’s ethos of experimental intersectionality. London-based Jenny Saville joins a triumvirate of Angelenos—Mark Bradford, Alex Israel and Barbara Kruger—all contributing works challenging the location of the self in relation to complex networks. We spoke with Heyler about the Broad Museum’s intersection with Los Angeles, its struggles in opening and its difficult choices in what work to display.
How has the Broad Foundation changed Los Angeles?
The existence of an L.A.-based art foundation with a high profile internationally in the museum world has no doubt helped the emerging global consensus that L.A. is a major capital for contemporary art. Now, with The Broad, we are going to address an audience in L.A. directly, and show the collection not just through loans to others—which we will continue to do—but under our own roof, which I am very excited about.
What did you learn from the London art scene?
London was on the cusp of change; it wasn’t at all the city it is today, in terms of the art world and much else. Finding a decent cup of coffee took detective work, and it just wasn’t as easy to have a good time there, as it was just five or ten years later, at least as a visitor. You could visit all the galleries—Anthony d’Offay, a few others—in one afternoon. I was studying 19th century British and French art, including some aspects of the art market and collecting of that time, which has provided me with amazing perspective—in the plus ça change sense—on the madness of the art market that I operate in for the Broads today.
Tell me about the hard choices.
Being able to lay out a very full scope of this collection in our 50,000 square feet of gallery space still means hard choices. There is no way, with 200 artists, to show everything. But this installation of the collection will include more artists than any other previous display—around 75—and bring artworks into conversation with one another, rather than focusing narrowly.
What piece from the collection speaks to you the most?
I’ve been thinking lately about a work by Robert Longo that we recently acquired. It’s a large charcoal drawing of the police line during the Ferguson, Missouri protests after Michael Brown’s death. It has alerted me to the art world’s relative retreat, for quite a long time now, from works that are as directly topical as the Longo drawing. Works with political and social relevance have long been a strong part of The Broad Collection, however, so we added it late last year. It is beautiful and haunting. The art critic for the Guardian, Jonathan Jones, called it the most important artwork produced in 2014.